Boulet Brothers

Boulet Brothers Concrete relies on Mack® trucks to exceed customer expectations for time-sensitive concrete-delivery jobs.

Hubert Boulet has always had a passion for Mack® trucks, and one of his earliest childhood memories is of a Mack calendar hanging on his bedroom wall. When he was 10 years old, he started working at Boulet Brothers Concrete Ltd., a company started by his father, Edmond, and uncle, Omer. They launched Boulet Brothers Concrete in 1963 as a foundation contractor. In the mid-1970s, they started delivering concrete to jobsites via mixer trucks, and the company's sole business since the mid-'90s has been providing ready-mix concrete for commercial, industrial and residential construction projects.

After earning an engineering degree in 1996, Boulet returned to the family-owned business based in Somerset, Manitoba, and has spent his career there, working his way up to president. He also serves as chairman of Concrete Manitoba (formerly the Manitoba Ready Mix Concrete Association), which represents the Canadian province's concrete producers, manufacturers and sellers.

Edmond and Omer bought their first Mack truck — a 1967 DM with an 18-speed quadruplex transmission — in the mid-'70s. The truck increased the company's profitability significantly, and Boulet Brothers has purchased Macks exclusively since then. Hubert Boulet sold that first truck to a farmer last year for $1,000 and four T-bone steaks. "I said, ‘If I can start this truck and get it running within 10 minutes, you're going to buy it,'" he recalls. "And I did. We hadn't used it in five years."

Boulet estimates the company has purchased more than 50 Mack trucks. It currently operates 12 units, including Mack Granite® trucks from model years 2011-2016, Mack RD690s from model years 2000-2001, a 2009 Pinnacle® highway tractor and a 1979 Mack DM. For the past five years, Boulet Brothers has been spec'ing a straight tandem Granite with a standard transmission and an 11-liter, 345-horsepower, high-torque engine. The company also operates a 2011 tri-drive Granite concrete mixer.

Boulet says the reliability, durability and fine-precision capabilities Mack builds into its products are crucial to his company's success.

"Time is of the essence in the concrete business because we're selling a perishable commodity," Boulet says. "You can't afford to have any breakdowns. When we load a truck up with concrete, it's got to get to the jobsite, get its load delivered and then make its way back to the plant so it can be washed out properly. Otherwise you have a very big problem with concrete setting up in the truck."

Typically, mixer trucks have two hours to make their round trip.

"We often joke that if you phone 911 for an ambulance, order a pizza and order a load of concrete, there's a good chance the load of concrete will show up first," Boulet says with a laugh.

The fate of entire projects can rest on the dependability of mixer trucks.

"We're often the center of a larger operation," Boulet says. "We're delivering the concrete, but there are crews doing all the placing of the concrete. There are often concrete pumps on site, engineers and testing companies to test the concrete. Everything is running on the clock, so we have to be organized to make everything move efficiently."

Mack Trucks

Service and success

Steve Peterson, who has been Boulet Brothers' salesman at Mack Sales & Service of Manitoba since 1986, says the Mack GuardDog® Connect telematics network plays a key role in keeping the company's trucks on the road. It monitors trucks while they're working and alerts drivers and owners to potential problems before they become serious.

"We often say we do gymnastics on a concrete site with a truck," Boulet says. "You have to negotiate some jobsites that aren't vehicle-friendly, whether it's excavations, soft conditions, slopes or poor traction. We have to do a lot of fine precision work. You can do that with the Mack. The beauty of the Mack is it's strong and heavy duty, but you can still use it to do the fine work."

Heavy loads and difficult-to-navigate jobsites put a lot of stress on the company's vehicles, but Boulet says Mack trucks withstand those conditions better than other brands. "We need the trucks to get the job done in conditions we sometimes weren't expecting," he says. "And we don't want to have to put in hours and hours of repairs on the vehicles afterward."

Peterson says this ruggedness is partly due to Mack's complete vertical integration of powertrain components. Mack has long offered its own durable engines, transmissions and rear axles built specifically for the construction industry. This integration also makes Mack dealerships one-stop shops for parts and service, Peterson notes.

Getting the specs right

Boulet says his company's current primary spec for mixer trucks — the straight tandem Granite GU713 — is a pro at maneuvering cramped ¬≠jobsites.

"The 20,000-pound Mack front axles with dual power-steering pumps facilitate excellent handling and low-effort steering for drivers in tight jobsite conditions," Peterson says.

The Granite single-steer with tri-drive is a configuration that can handle more weight, reducing plant-to-jobsite trips, and access lower-quality roads.

While it's the right choice for certain runs, "the best bang for our buck is the tandem because of the lower cost of maintenance," Boulet says. "It's also a very fuel-efficient vehicle." Fuel is the company's third-highest cost.

Despite the Canadian winter, Boulet Brothers Concrete operates year round. Most concrete is placed from April through November, and the company's minimum delivery temperature is minus 25 degrees F.

Peterson says Boulet understands the concrete industry from the ground up — from the trucks to the weight laws to the mixing of the concrete. "He's always looking for something better, always looking for an advantage for his drivers, his company, the industry," Peterson says.

Recently, that's meant studying the mDRIVE™ HD 14-speed transmission. He attended a ride-and-drive event at the Mack Customer Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and says the next truck he purchases will be equipped with mDRIVE HD.

"The creeper gears will let us be so precise on the jobsite," Boulet says. "You can be very exact with your movements. They also allow us to negotiate slopes and poor soil conditions better.

"The mDRIVE keeps our hands free to do the driving, and after a long day, your operator is a lot less tired than one running a manual transmission."

Boulet strives to please operators in other ways as well. "Hubert likes to spec his trucks with eye-catching, bright-finish items and interior options that make employees proud to drive them and very comfortable in them," Peterson says. "He's building a truck that creates a good image for his company as well as the industry."

"The Granite is a very comfortable, quiet, relaxing vehicle to operate," says Boulet, who still drives when he can free himself from the office. "The fit and finish is excellent. The operator's station has great visibility. It's a lot easier to attract people to our industry because the jobs are more pleasant when you're operating nicer equipment."